Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking Forward to Spring and Summer

We all need some sunshine and cheer. I can give you some!

Now...this is all about doing some colorwork and more specifically some of Ruth Sorensen's designs. You know how much I love Ruth AND her designs.

First up is the Spring Sweater.

I started the Spring Sweater some time ago. I actually started it way back when she released the pattern. As with many projects I start, they languish in a bag, waiting for more attention and love! Truth be told, I did have to set it aside for Nihon Vogue!

The pink color for the flowers is Kauni. The yarn for the background is Evilla. The Evilla has VERY long striping. I am happy with the very long striping because I wanted the brown to represent sand and the blue to represent the ocean and the sky. I think that is going to work out just fine. The blue will be up closer to my face which is much better for my skin color.

Here is my very slight progress.

This is a shot of the yarns - Evilla on the left and Kauni on the right.

Next is the Summer Shawl. I started a teeny tiny bit of this while Ruth was still here. I don't have anything to really show at this point. I do have a photo of Ruth's version that was displayed at Village Yarn and Tea while she was visiting us last month. I have always wanted to do a fair isle shawl in the round. Now I have my project! The colors Ruth chose are perfect for me. The pinks/purples for the roses and that cheery green as the background. The kicker for me in doing this project was that roses are my favorite flowers. When I sold my house, 15 well established hybrid tea rose plants stayed there in my english style garden. When this is complete, I will have some other roses to cheer me up! It is absolutely gorgeous in person. Note: Ruth...I'm so glad you finally got the pattern up on your website!!!

If you need some "spring" and "summer" projects, here are two suggestions.

Downside of Addiction

That really is a bad title for a blog post. Is there an upside to addiction?

If you are a fellow blogger, don't you have a whole bunch of ideas for blog posts swimming around in your head where they stay only for you to enjoy?

I've got many swimming around up in the brainsphere(is that a word?). They seem to stay up there due to a severe lack of motivation and drive.

Those of you that know me personally know what a "producer" I am. I am driven. I am motivated. I can get something done if I really need to or want to. This has not been me of late.

It all started after Madrona and I headed to Hawaii for vacation.

Due to a heavy caffeine addiction I have not been feeling well and have had a huge decrease in overall motivation and drive. In Hawaii I did not have my regular access to my espresso machine.

I love this machine. We purchased this (an older model) at Starbucks right after we got married. We bought a demonstrator machine which was something like 1/2 the regular price. It went on the blink before the warranty expired so we turned it in and got another one. This happened to us twice. Even though we had to pay a little bit of money each time, we were able to get the newest model. We've had the current one for at least 2 years now.

Anyway(I seem to get off track a lot-that is one of the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal-lack of focus) I didn't understand why some days I would have annoying headaches(not debilitating ones) and mildly nauseated. I thought it was something I ate because there was no regularity to my symptoms.

While in Hawaii, some days I would go to Starbucks and sometimes I wouldn't. On the days I didn't go I would just make coffee at the condo. I guess I wasn't drinking enough caffeine those days when I was feeling a bit under the weather. I was also trying to get off diet soda so I was really good about not having one in the afternoon. I'm beginning to wonder if I was feeling bad on the days I was trying to be good and not have a soda in the afternoon.

An added twist to this story is I also have acid reflux/gerd issues and have been on prescription medicine for about the past 6 months, post endoscopy. My father died of stomach cancer so once I started getting acid stomach symptoms I scheduled an endoscopy. Yes, I had inflammation and yes, I needed to keep it in check especially with my family history.

Since I have been back from Hawaii, some days I would have caffeine in the afternoon(in the form of a diet soda or espresso) and some days I wouldn't. I never connected my feeling "not like myself" to the caffeine, or lack of it.

Well, I began having the same symptoms I had prior to the endoscopy(nausea, acid feeling stomach, etc) and I thought I should look at the no-no list of foods for acid stomach.

One was coffee/caffeine. That is a big one. So yesterday morning I thought I'll try to go off caffeine. I only had one shot instead of two in the morning(I actually didn't even finish the one) and had nothing with caffeine in the afternoon.

Yesterday was a bad day, really bad day. I felt terrible. Big headaches(which I knew I would get) but also a whole host of symptoms(I had all of them). I woke up last night at 3am with a killer headache. I took my trusty little iPhone and looked up caffeine withdrawal symptoms while lying in bed. That was it!

They say to decrease caffeine consumption slowly. Take my advice, if you want to get off your caffeine habit, don't go cold turkey!

I am starting to feel a bit better now that I have had my regular dose of caffeine. I still feel a bit under the weather but I must be feeling well enough to do a post.

Can you believe I haven't even been knitting? I know I'm not feeling well when the thought of knitting doesn't even sound enticing. Maybe soon I'll feel like getting back to the things that bring me joy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I am doing homework.

Finally I have flushed out my design. I decided to move beyond analysis paralysis(a phrase I used to use when I could get bogged down in the analysis of IT systems designs-not too far off from knit designs quite honestly).

I have charted my design onto the body measurements to make sure all the pieces fit into my garment's real estate. If you have ever designed an aran you will quickly realize that you don't have as much real estate as you think you do.

With an aran, you have multiple design pieces, cables, honeycomb, diamonds, etc. When pieced together, they must fit into your set space. There is much calculation and then there is more calculation. (Heather in Alaska, you are going to like this!)

Not only is there challenge horizontally, but vertically. My most glaring challenge is the diamond pattern. Each diamond repeat, vertically, is 9.5 cm. If you want to have a complete diamond at the top of the sweater you must move and measure down from there to see if the diamond will get cut off at the length you want the finished garment. I had to adjust my sweater an additional 3.7 cm because I didn't want to start the diamond in the middle, I wanted a complete repeat.

Once your biggest, most noticeable cable is measured out, you must measure each design element, like the honeycomb to make sure its repeat will begin/end within the new length. Since I'm not as bothered by honeycomb ending mid pattern, that was easier to deal with.

My other large headache was getting the traditional X and O patterns to work out in my design/garment. I am doing the X and O pattern vertically to use as my button band. In addition, I am also doing the X and O pattern horizontally along the bottom band. In order to make all those X's and O's line up...well I had to pray the numbers would work out. As it turns out, they did. Beautifully I must say.

On the right and left front pieces I had to use only half an X for the numbers to work out. A full X or O would make the piece 1.75cm too large.

That means that on the back, on each side of the back I also have to knit half an X so when I sew, there will be a full X at the sides. I could not believe my lucky stars that the number of X and O's on the back work to exactly the 56cm. I took 56cm and subtracted 3.5cm (the two half X's for the sides to match the other 1/2 of the X from the fronts) and I'm left with 52.5cm. 52.5/3.5(width of each X and O) = 15. I needed and odd number to make sure two X's or O's wouldn't be next to each other. Do you understand what I'm saying?

Time to celebrate that the numbers worked out!!!

I am now excited to actually start the knitting part. Design is so much trickier and there is a ton of math and calculation involved.

I really appreciate all the work good designers go to in order to make a *good* design. Boy, I can sure spot issues with designs now.

Here is a tidbit of how my design worked out. It is hard to see. I have a hell of a time photographing the velum like graph paper.

Yes, another diversion

What can I say?

I'm lacking any motivation WHATSOEVER to do Nihon Vogue homework.

It isn't that I don't enjoy my education. It isn't that I don't love Jean(which I DO). It isn't that I'm not learning anything(I learn so much!). I can't exactly put my finger on why I haven't tackled ANY homework since last class.

Oh! I know why.

There are so many other exciting and tempting things out there that are catching my attention.

One is this Mystery Shawl Along #12 hosted by Goddess Knits. Renee' Leverington designs some amazing lace shawls.

I have never joined a mystery anything.

Friends know I am a lace ho. I love knitting lace and I collect lace yarn. You know one reason I gravitate to lace yarn? It doesn't take up that much space. It is lots of yardage in a very small package.

Why did I decide to do a mystery lace knit along? Consider my habits. I love starting projects. I love the anticipation of casting on, of dreaming about the finished product. I'm just one of those folks that loves *beginnings*.

My first thoughts on a mystery shawl was "what if I don't like the shawl at the end and I've committed all these hours to it?"

Then I began to think in terms of reality. I know I love to start projects. I know I love lace. I know I have a lot of lace yarn in the stash.

Hell, why not do a mystery shawl?

These are the pro's: It will be fun because uh, it's a mystery and I love mysteries and suspense. I can use up lace stash. I love knitting lace. I love starting things. Since a clue(or the next part of the chart) is released on a weekly basis, it is like getting to start a new project every week, yet it is also continuing a project. At the end of 6 weeks a mystery will be solved and I will have used up a small part of my stash and have a beautiful shawl to show for it. What are the cons? Are there any? Ok, maybe the con is that I have spent hours away from doing Nihon homework. As my friend Melinda pointed out that I will be able to DO IT ALL since I took Stephanie's Speed Knitting course(I'm sure her message was sent in a facetious tone which can't be conveyed in a text message). Oh, if only one could have those skills just by taking a class and not actually practicing the technique!

So I began my shawl on March 11, the day after I returned from Hawaii. Clue 2 was released this past Saturday. I finished clue two and this is what the shawl looks like so far.

Yarn: Posh Yarn Cecilia(50%cashmere/50%silk) 100g with 1300 yds - colorway aquarium

Needles used: Addi Turbo lace US4/3.5mm

Now back to designing my Aran for Nihon Vogue homework! It has been a rough go. I don't like anything I think will look good together. I thought last weekend I had my design pretty much figured out, now today I don't like it(the reason I have not posted any photos yet). Maybe my change in satisfaction had to do with the migraine I had yesterday? I am thinking of scraping what I had conceptualized. That is the hard part about design. Its all about lots of swatching and literally going back to the drawing board.

Back to the drawing board. I better get coffee first! (Do you see how my brain tries to protect me by diverting me to the kitchen rather than my desk?)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Queen of Beads

Yesterday I decided to start the first installment of the Rockin' Sock Club 2009 - World Domination Tour.

The first design is called Queen of Beads, designed by Sivia Harding.   

First detour from Queen of Beads:

I had an opportunity to meet Sivia at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter retreat 3 weeks ago.  I happen to be a member of a private Yahoo group.  Each year at Madrona a bunch of us meet up and have dinner one night during the retreat.  Sivia is also a member of that group.

As knitter notoriety goes, Sivia is right up there.  She might laugh about this but when she showed up for dinner(I had heard rumor's she was going to be there), I felt nervous excitement!  Having dinner with Sivia Harding?   She was also helping Cat Bordhi in her sock class so I had a chance to talk to her in class.   She is such a kind and gracious person.

Back to the socks!

Here is the wonderfully dyed yarn(thank you Tina!) with the very beautiful beads sitting next to my refreshing tropical drink.

I have never strung beads onto yarn before knitting.  I usually use a crochet hook to place the beads as I am knitting.

I don't know a lot about bead knitting so I had to call Ellen on the phone to find out how she strung her beads.  The way I was thinking I was going to string them on the yarn did not work(using a fine needle and stringing them on the yarn like I did as a child making bead jewelry). 

I had planned on placing the beads on the yarn while we drove 2 hours north to the quaint little town of Hawi.  Since that didn't work I knit on my Mandala shawl.

Note - Second detour from talking about the Queen of Beads:

As we got closer to the northern end of the island there was a brush fire.   The next photo was taken as we approached the area of the brush fire.  Don't you wonder what the fire/police think when tourists are taking dumb photos like these?  Ooohhh, I was on vacation and there was a *brush fire*.  Great excitement.  :)

I'll blame it on Greg.  He said "get the camera out and take some photos!" So I did!

On the way back to the condo after sightseeing on the north end of the island yesterday I asked to stop at Longs Drug to get dental floss threaders.  After talking with Ellen and failing at stringing the beads with a needle, I was intent on getting those beads ON the yarn!

Back on track with the socks:

This is how you string beads onto yarn using a floss threader.

Start with a single floss threader:

Drape your yarn through the loop of the floss threader:

Begin stringing the beads using the pointed tip of the floss threader:

Once the bead/beads are on the floss threader, push the bead down the yarn. I had some difficulty getting some of my beads down past where the floss threader ends and where the yarn is doubled. I think there are just some beads that were just too small to get on the yarn.

I've strung about 190 beads on the yarn for the first sock. I am ready to begin.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The other photographer in the family

As we were coming to our condo on the big island we went down a residential street. Obviously this is a well travelled street that required some speed bumps be installed to slow traffic.

As Greg drove, I was trying to get my camera focused and ready. As many speed bumps as there were on this road, I could not get a good, clear shot.

First attempt:

Second attempt:

Third and final attempt:

Good thing there is another photographer in the family!

I love the term "Speed Hump". Cracked me up. Funny how a one letter difference can really change how one reacts to a particular phrase. Obviously it moved me enough to try and get my camera out to take a photo.

On another note, I love taking photos of Greg taking photos. Why? I like to see the context in which a particular photo or photos are taken.

Greg taking photos of the sunset on the big island.

This is one of the photos he took when I was taking the photo of him:

This next round of photos are for Ellen and her son Patrick in memory of Monty! This little guy took up residence on our lanai.

Here is Greg taking photos of Monty II.

Here are some of the photos of Monty II that Greg took:

Monty II closeup:

Monty II feeling threatened:
Monty II looking like a dog, begging for a treat!

I'll end today's post by wishing my sister, Trish, a very Happy Birthday!  Have a great dinner with the kids at Marlai!  Hopefully they will treat you(although we know that it probably isn't likely!  HA!).  Hope you had a great day!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Yes, I AM doing some knitting


I always, whether I blog about it or not, have some knitting going. Usually I have Nihon Vogue homework to keep me busy but I needed a break from it.

While on vacation(I know, everyday is vacation for me nowadays), I am even taking a break from Nihon Vogue.

As most knitters can relate, trying to decide what knitting to bring on a trip is harder than what clothes/shoes to pack. Again, as most knitters will agree, they usually take too much knitting along, ever optimistic as to how much knitting one can actually get done on vacation!

What I *have* managed to make progess on are the following.

The Stalwart Left Right Socks. This yarn was a definite splurge AND unexpected purchase at Madrona. The fiber is basically the Merlin product by Louet but hand-dyed by Tactile Fiber Arts. I bought two skeins(I know, a $62 pair of socks?) but I just wanted to make Greg some special socks for summer. They will be very hard wearing with the linen. Since Greg is not good about hand washing his hand-knit socks, I thought this would be a good fiber for him - he can wash them in the washer and stick them in the dryer. I heard good things from a fellow student in my Cat Bordhi sock class. She swears by the wearability of this fiber combo.

Here is my progress. Notice I am using Knitpicks harmony dpns. Well, I had Greg try them on as he has very thin ankles and I wanted him to try them on to make sure they were not too big. I start out on a 2.5mm and just about a couple inches down from the cuff I transition to 2.25mm. When he was trying them on he was having a hard time getting the sock over his heel. Instead of gently pulling them on, he just bullies the sock on. Snap! Good thing Knitpicks come with 6 dpns. I think this is a clear example of why I need to invest in the Signature Knitting Needle dpns. I have one coveted pair and at $55 for a set of 5, it is a real investment. But I must say, a worthy investment. I love them.

Sorry I got distracted. Here is my progress.

I also like to have a no-brainer knitting project along. At the last minute(you know, you are stuffing a skein of yarn here and there in the suitcases) I put in my Summer of Love colorway from Plucky Knitter. I bought this at the last Stitch 'N Pitch. As a side note, is there a Seattle Mariner fan out there that isn't completely thrilled to have Griffey back this season? I'm over the moon! Looking forward to our season tickets! Here I go again getting distracted.

Here are my Summer of Love Nutkin socks. I love the Nutkin pattern. Mindless, yet interesting. I love how the color splash is spiriling around the sock.

At Madrona, I bought some to die(or is it dye) for wild tussah silk/merino lace yarn in the colorway Plum Thunder(sound like it would be *my* color, doesn't it?) from Curious Creek Fibers. I am knitting the Mandala Shawl. I am enjoying this very much. I started knitting this at Madrona and was almost done with Chart 3(on a US4) when I realized that I didn't like the fabric. Back in some dark corner of my brain, I heard Catherine Lowe say "Why wouldn't you do a large swatch for a shawl?". Well, lesson learned. I had put many hours into the shawl and had to frog. Don't get me wrong. I happily frogged it knowing I would be much happier with the end result. I enjoyed knitting it so much that I will enjoy is just as well the second time around(this time on a US7).

Here is lies on the chaise lounge looking like a blob of seaweed. Laziness prevents me from putting it on a longer circular needle to show off its detail.

I feel bad for you folks back at home that braved the snow and are dealing with a good dose of rain. I hate to say how nice it is here where I am. It is nice. It is about 80 degrees with light winds. I'll send sun your way!